Monday, May 27, 2013

"Under Contract"

Right now I am “under” two contracts, one for the sale of my house and one for the purchase of our new house. I am also under pressure. The buyers of my house want us out as soon as possible. They have a commitment for June 17th. But, since I had no house at the time of their offer, we stipulated that we would close no sooner than July 15th with 7 extra days to move. They came back with their contractor last week to look around and get estimates for the work they want to do. Once again they asked me if we could move out sooner. I said I would try. I told them I had just found a home and we agreed on the price, however we hadn’t seen the lawyers yet. I tried to explain that even if we were both ready to move, the people in the house we are buying may not be able to accommodate our time table.

At the new house, the sellers told me that they could work with me on the date because they are moving into her father’s house. Her father has been ill and she wants to be right there to help her mom care for him. I am hoping that they will move out before the closing and leave the house vacant so I can try to get the wood floors done. I also hope they will agree to the July 15th ballpark closing date. Right now their contract says August 1st, and that will make my buyers very anxious. The lawyers are working on the date issue right now. I don’t think I will push up the date for my buyers, from July 15th. I need the time to pack everything and so do my sellers on the new house. It would put extra pressure on us to try to move any earlier. I also have one more good reason not to accommodate them.

The buyers of my house pulled a little “stunt” early on. After you agree on a price for the sale of a house, the buyer has an engineer inspection done to see if there are major problems. Instead of bringing an “engineer,” they brought their friend the contractor, who was going to do all the work they wanted. He pretended or presented himself to be an engineer and found dozens of things wrong with my house. It looked like the sale was dead. But, as it happens, the buyers still wanted it, they just wanted me to come down $35,000 on the price for all the work that needed to be done. My realtor told them no way that was happening. So they wanted us to drop it $25,000. My realtor said no. He asked them who was going to do the work? Their realtor said what does that matter? My realtor said well, if they are having friends do it, then the price is inflated. She agreed. Finally they proposed that we meet in the middle and drop the price $12,500. We agreed to that, however, we did not know at that time that the contractor was also the engineer, and had exaggerated all the problems to help them get the price reduced. So, my realtor was very shrewd in not giving in to their demands, even though it may have cost us the sale of the house. And, this is the main reason why I am not so sympathetic to their need to get in sooner rather than later. July 15th works out well for me and I hope my sellers too.

The next few weeks we are going to be packing and purging the whole house. I find it hard to throw things away. Yesterday, for example, I found all the little ceramics pieces my younger daughter painted at various birthday parties. It’s quite a collection. For years those works of art hung in her room. There will be no place for them at the new house, but it bothers me to dispose of them. I am too sentimental. There are memories attached to too many things. I suppose many of those things will have to go, like it or not.

Today we will go back to packing up the basement. This week I will try to do the dining room and the remaining things in the kitchen that we aren’t using. I am washing everything first, and packing them in plastic bags, so can just place them in right in the closets and drawers later. I’m trying to be organized, but my mind is all over the place.

One good thing about moving and packing is that it is an instant cure for insomnia. When my head hit’s the pillow I feel like someone has given me an anesthetic. I guess it will be like that for a few months, until everything is unpacked and we are settled.

Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Jodi Arias Hung Jury…

I really didn’t want to have to blog this last development in the Jodi Arias trial. I had hoped that the jury would reach a unanimous decision and grant Travis Alexander justice and his family peace and closure. I cannot even imagine every way they have been affected by being in the courtroom every day for five months after waiting five years for the trial. I cannot imagine how sick it must make them to look at Travis’ pictures: his throat slit from side to side almost decapitated, 29 stab wounds and a bullet to the head. All they wanted and prayed for was for this ordeal to be over so they could try and put the pieces of their lives back together and move on. The jury was told, from the outset, that this was a death penalty case. They knew if the evidence proved excessive cruelty that the death penalty was in order. They knew the circumstances of the murder. They all said they would have no problem voting for the death penalty. Juan Martinez, the prosecutor, all but drew them a detailed map leading to the death penalty. He described every way in which the murder was cruel. He told them how, for two very long minutes, Travis knew he was being murdered and was helpless to defend himself. He eliminated every one of the ridiculous mitigating factors the defense and Jodi tried to present. There were no mitigating factors. So what if she was 27? Twenty-seven is young, but not so young that she had no life experience. So what if she is an artist? She has some artistic talent, but what does that have to do with the murder? So what if she never was convicted of another crime before this one? Does that mean she gets a free pass on the first murder? So what if she had an “abusive” childhood and was hit with a wooden spoon? How many of us have been similarly punished by wooden spoons, switches and belts? So what if her mother paid attention to her baby sister and Jodi felt neglected. What child with younger siblings hasn’t experienced that? So what of she gave her hair to “Locks of Love”? Maybe those receiving her freaking hair wouldn’t even want it.

Jodi, who changed her mind in a couple of days about asking for the death penalty, “pleaded” for life in prison for the sake of her family. She outlined what she would do in prison to benefit society. She would start a book club so the inmates could discuss literature. She would teach literacy and Spanish to those who want to learn. She would start a recycling program. She will sell her “Survivor” T-Shirts to raise money for domestic abuse victims. As I am tying this I just want to scream. Who the hell cares what she would do? Who the hell can believe her anyway? It’s what I didn’t hear that bothered me. She never apologized to Travis’ family for the pain she caused them. She never even showed a bit of remorse or emotion. Her first concern is always addressing the media and granting interviews. She demands make-up and that they do not film her prison stripped pants. She needs to do her hair. WHY are they allowing her to give interviews at all? Haven’t we seen and heard enough from her already. It’s not like we are learning anything new or truthful. She just lies so easily, it’s like breathing for her. And if those of us who watched the trial could not stomach the sight of her, just imagine how Travis’ family and friends must be feeling?

Yesterday the jury came back with the non-verdict on the penalty phase. After having no trouble of convicting her of first degree murder and extreme cruelty, they failed to follow through and give her the sentence the law demands in such a case…death. They could not reach a unanimous decision. We don’t know the breakdown of what went on in the deliberation room, we just know they could not agree. And now, they leave this final job for a new jury. A new and impartial jury must be impaneled by July. However, this new jury doesn’t know all the facts. Much of the evidence will have to be rehashed for their benefit. The Alexander family will have to sit there and endure more testimony and look at the horrible pictures of Travis, slaughtered with his blood everywhere. They will have to look at and listen to Jodi Arias lie. They already heard her lie about how Travis was abusive. They heard her lie about his inclinations towards pedophilia. They heard her lie, assassinating his character, to build her defense to the very end of the trial. Now they have to endure more. Isn’t this cruel and unusual punishment being inflicted on this family by the jury’s lack of agreement? It’s not that I don’t feel bad for these people who have devoted a so much of their time to this case. They must be exhausted and drained from it. It’s taken over their lives. But they were so close to the end and failed to complete the job. I wonder if any of them thought about how this non-verdict would affect the Alexander family. Jodi gets a reprieve and his family gets tortured some more.

And Arizona just complicated the whole process. Their law requiring a second jury to decide the penalty, rather than the judge, is the reason this trial could not be over yesterday. And Jodi will very liking require two new attorneys, who will need to get up to speed, because these two tried to get removed from her case twice in the past week, saying they could not provide adequate defense.

It just angers me that the system bends over backwards for people like Jodi, who are clearly guilty of a heinous crime, but slacks when it comes to considering victims and their families.

Now we will get at least a two month break, before the final phase begins again. I hope this new jury gets it right.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The IRS Targets Conservative Groups…

Every day I am waking up with a headache these days. It could be due to the stress of the big “move,” which should take place within a couple of months. Or, it could be due to the outrageous news stories that AOL thoughtfully drops on my home page, just to keep me informed. I’ll admit that I stupidity got myself invested in that Jodi Arias trial and now I have to see it through to the end. The story about the killing of Hofstra student, Andrea Rebello, hit close to home as a parent of young ladies close to her age and one of whom attended Hofstra. Then there was the Oklahoma tornado that caused devastation of the magnitude that reminded me of Sandy, whose victims are still waiting for relief. And the story of the Boston bombers, whose act of terrorism reminded me of 911 and how vulnerable we still all are. I really can’t escape hearing about the news unless I go live with the Amish and give up TV and internet. That’s not gonna happen.

Today I poked around my news page to see what all the IRS drama is about. I ask my husband a few questions too, since he has been voting Republican. It seems the IRS has been targeting non-profit conservative groups, like the Tea Party. They want to make sure they are complying with the codes for non-profits organizations and if not they have to pay their fair share of taxes. That is the gist of what I learned. Apparently, President Obama says he learned of it in the news, like everyone else. Some people will believe him, others won’t. I choose to take the President at his word until there is concrete evidence that proves otherwise. So, let the investigation begin!

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform formed a committee to get to the truth. However, I get the feeling we are off to a bad start. There is a Senator, Max Baucus, from Montana, who suggested in 2010 that non-profit groups be reviewed to see if they are complying with their tax-exempt status. However, Baucus recommended only Republican and conservative organizations be investigated. And guess what? Baucus is now leading the current IRS hearings to get to the bottom of their illegal targeting practices. If that isn’t strange enough, Lois Lerner, the official who heads the IRS tax-exempt division and who disclosed the IRS targeting practice, was subpoenaed to be questioned at the hearing. Lois came with her attorney to defend her actions. She told her version of what she wanted everyone to hear and then, when questioned by the committee, she invoked her 5th amendment rights. The IRS insists that they weren’t doing anything wrong or illegal. If that’s the case, why invoke the 5th amendment? Meanwhile, there are emails which may or may not clear of the mystery of who was behind this targeting practice, which they feel began n 2010. Maybe they should ask Baucus?

Acting IRS Commissioner, Steven Miller, who resigned a few days ago, apologized for the IRS for “mistakes” made and stated he was not personally involved. And he also added, that he did not find evidence that the targeting was politically motivated. What? Did I just type that right? How can it not be politically motivated when only certain political organizations were “targeted?” That fact alone is evidence to their motivation, or did I just fall off a turnip truck?

Let me end this blog by saying I am not a fan of the Tea Party by any means. Their views are too extreme for me. However, I am against illegal practices of any kind. Corruption is corruption. The end never justifies the means. If the IRS wants to review non-profits, then review all non-profits across the board. Frankly, if I were in charge of the IRS, I would try to get rid of the whole tax-exempt status category. Every organization should pay something. Maybe those who can prove they use their money for humanitarian efforts like curing disease, disaster relief, helping the poor, should get a tax break. But all political organizations shouldn’t get any breaks. The rules for tax-exempt status need a complete overhaul.

I hope they get to the truth of what went on in the IRS and who was behind it. When things like this come out, it makes me think what other things are they doing or have they done that are illegal. It’s ironic that an agency of the government, that makes you sign your tax returns under penalty of perjury for false statements, is itself invoking its 5th amendment rights.

P.S. If I have gotten any facts wrong, just ignore it. I'm not going to waste too much of my time of politics.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Benghazi “Cover-Up”

I have been reading about the Benghazi attack on the American consulate for months. Four American tragically and violently lost their lives. It’s been agreed on that this was an act of terrorism. Like everyone else, I have been waiting for the truth to come out. There was a lot of finger pointing and blame. Susan Rice had to withdraw her name from consideration for Secretary of State because she was being blamed for misleading the country about what happened. Hillary Clinton is being blamed for not providing enough security under the circumstances. President Obama and his administration are being blamed for an alleged cover-up of the whole “scandal.”

I will be the first to admit that I don’t know all the facts and have not read the 100 or so emails that were released regarding the incident. But, what I am reading is that certain Republicans are now back-pedaling on the alleged “cover-up” theory, including Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, who after reading the newly released emails, now feel differently. Perhaps more will come around in time. According to one source I read, the “leaked emails” months ago were allegedly doctored up and altered by a GOP source to make it look  like the truth was being withheld. Take a look at this:

“A leaked email adds new language to State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland’s email, including a specific reference to al-Qaeda:

“The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda.“

The actual email read:

“The penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings.“

A leaked email written by deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes suggests that he asked for the final draft to remove references to warnings about specific attacks, a demand made by the State Department:

“We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.”

But the actual email did not mention the State Department:

“We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.”

Since the congressional hearings last week, the White House on Wednesday released a hundred pages of emails from after the consulate attack. The full version undermines already-thin accusations that this is a White House scandal.”

Now, is anyone planning to get to the bottom of who exactly doctored the emails to mislead the country as to what happened in Benghazi? Is the GOP going to gloss over that, now that we know the truth? After all, for months the President and his administration have been badgered and maligned for “misleading and covering-up,” when that simply was not the case. Is anyone in the GOP going to apologize to Susan Rice, who has now been vindicated by the truth? And as for Hillary Clinton, I don’t know what part she played in what happened that day or if mistakes in judgment were made. Clearly, something went terribly wrong and she has said the buck stops with her. She accepts responsibility for that. However, I have been reading that she is being attacked not so much for her role in the events, but to prevent or dissuade her from running for president in 2016. Shocking, isn’t it?

This investigation should be thorough. We should get the answers we need about what happened in Benghazi and figure out how to make sure something like this never happens again. It’s a matter of national security. It’s a matter of leadership. It’s a matter of examining the facts to find out where things went wrong. It’s about getting to the truth, whatever it may be. It’s not about altering emails to mislead American citizens about the President and his administration. It’s not about trying to fabricate a “scandal” to win favor with voters and an election. It’s not about jumping to conclusions, ruining people’s reputations and careers, and conducting a witch hunt.

The families of the four men killed in Benghazi deserve to know the truth about what happened and why it happened. Politics should have nothing to do with that. I don’t care how it makes either party look. Frankly, the truth will probably make both parties look bad for one reason or another. Who cares? Both sides should be working together and making that goal their primary focus. I hope and pray these families get the answers they have been waiting so long to hear.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hofstra Student Killed…

You know when you have a child in college, any time the name of that college comes up on the news you stop what you’re doing and listen. And, even though my older daughter graduated from Hofstra four years ago, I still can’t help but pay close attention to what happens there. A couple of days ago the news reported that a Hofstra student was shot and killed, and for a second my heart seemed to stop. I couldn’t help but think, that even though my daughter was safe, this girl’s parents were going to be heartbroken and devastated, inconsolable. The details of this local story keep being replayed over and over.

What happened? Andrea Rebello and her identical twin sister, Jessica, lived in off campus housing with another girl. Jessica’s boyfriend was also at the home that night. He and Jessica had just returned from a date and they left the front door unlocked because he was leaving shortly. But, that never happened. There was a home invasion at 2 am, by a robber with a long criminal record and a gun. The robber was not satisfied with the “valuables” in the home, so he sent the twins’ roommate to go to the ATM for money and told her she had eight minutes to get back before he would shoot one of the twins. The girl left and called the police. The police arrived to find Jessica running out of the house, the boy friend hiding behind a couch and Andrea being held in a headlock by the intruder, as a human shield. The robber said he was going to shoot her. He pointed his gun at the police officer. The police officer fired, the robber never did. The robber and Andrea were both killed. The investigation revealed that Andrea was accidentally shot in the head by the police officer’s gun.

Friday was the last day of finals at Hofstra. Andrea and her sister were juniors at the university. They probably would have been packing their things to go home for summer vacation today. Instead, funeral arrangements were being made for Wednesday, for the beautiful 21 year old, whose life was cut short. Hofstra is having their graduation today, as scheduled, but this tragedy, happening only two days ago, is going to make it a somber occasion. There will not be a parent there who cannot imagine the grief and anguish of Andrea’s parents. Not to mention the pain of her twin sister, Jessica, who was there at the crime scene. The girls were said to be inseparable and I can’t help but wonder how this poor family will be able to go on after such an unspeakable loss.

The media is relentless is their pursuit of a story. They swoop in like vultures. They make me sick. It would be one thing if they stuck to getting their information at the scene of the crime and from the police department. I guess it would be acceptable if they wanted to interview students to get their reaction to the tragedy. But, they are relentless, callous and insensitive. They stop at nothing. They call the home of the parents looking for statements. I saw pictures being taken of Andrea’s parents, outside their home, as they returned from making funeral arrangements for their beautiful daughter. He mother, dressed in black, had to wave reporters away. The father said, “It’s my daughter, my baby…I’m so confused I don’t know what to do.” They are obviously in total shock at the moment. News like this doesn’t/can’t sink in immediately. They were undoubted looking forward to the girls coming home and filling up the rooms of their house with laughter. Instead, they are burying one of their precious daughters. There will be no laughter, only countless tears and grief. The depths of a grief that I can’t even fully imagine.

It’s so sad. The worst thing that can happen to any parent is to lose a child. It would be easier and hurt less to have your heart just ripped out of your chest than to bury your baby.

My prayers and deepest condolences go out to the Rebello family.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Our First House…

Act II of our lives began twenty-five years ago, when we went looking for our first house. We were in our early thirties. We had been married four years and had had our first daughter. I thought it would be best to try to find a house before we had another baby and things would get a little harder and more complicated. At the time we were living n my mother’s two family house, on the first floor, with two bedrooms. My mother had the basement finished into a nice little apartment, for my cousin to move into because she was living on the first floor. I made it clear to my mother that we would not be staying there forever. It was only a temporary situation because we wanted to own our own home. My mother, who was delighted at the prospect of having us all live in one house, agreed to everything and anything I said. However, I knew full well that when the time came, she was not going to be happy to see us go anywhere else.

After three years of living there, we announced that we were ready to start looking. The prices of the house were high and getting higher. Mortgage rates got at high as 14%, if you can believe that. It might have been a good idea to wait, but who knows if we would have ever been able to save up enough to keep up with the soaring prices. We bit the bullet and started looking. Everything seemed out of reach. We had a nice down payment saved up, but I didn’t want to get a house that was so expensive that the monthly payments would keep us financially strapped. I had intentions of remaining a stay at home mom and didn’t want to be forced to go back to work. So, after months of looking, we came across this house. A semi-detached, frame, one family house, with three nice sized bedrooms, a nice big backyard and basement. It even had an attic which, up until today, I have never gone up to see. The house was priced at $192,000. We went home to tell my parents that we liked it and were going to make an offer. My mother tried to counsel us about not offering too much at first. She was a shrewd negotiator all her life and could haggle down the price of anything. I told her we were going to offer $170,000. She threw a fit and said it was too much. I told her it was the only house we could afford and we liked it. She insisted that we could always go up, but we could never go down. In retrospect, she may have been right. But, we were young and planning to add to our family and felt if we let this house go, who knows when another would come along. And then too, we had to question my mother’s motives. Was she really looking out for us or did she just want us to remain living in her house indefinitely. Maybe it was a little of both. In any case, we made out offer of $170,000 and finally settled on $180,000.

We closed in July, 1998 and started painting in August. It was one of the hottest summers I can remember. The walls, though they appeared clean, must not have been painted in ages. They sucked up the paint like a sponge. My husband, who is not handy at all, was not much help, though he tried his best. We would go home, after a long day of painting, exhausted, hot and overwhelmed. My mother couldn’t stand to see us so tired and basically accomplishing nothing. She talked to my father and made him come help us with the painting. My father, pretended to balk at first, but he never refused to help us. The next day the three of us went to the house. He saw what we had done the past two weeks and laughed as he shook his head. He went upstairs and started with the ceilings of the three bedrooms and the hall. He gave them two coats each. He put a cost of paint on the master bedroom walls as my husband and I painted the woodwork, doors and inside the closets. My father did more in one day than we had accomplished in two weeks. By the end of one week the entire house had been painted.

Then we decided to put in new rugs in the upstairs bedrooms, hall and staircase. The rugs downstairs were new and neutral, so we kept them. I had a carpenter come and panel the closed in front porch that we made into an office/den. While he was there, I told him we didn’t have much money, but could he do anything about my old kitchen? He looked at it and said there was a place he knew where I could get cabinets pretty cheap and he would install them, with a formica counter-top for $900. He took me to the place, where I got some nice cabinets with oak doors, a sink, range hood, and counter-top, all at a very reasonable price.

We moved in Labor Day weekend. The cabinets were delivered within a day or two later. The carpenter came and installed everything in a couple of days. The whole house looked great and it was now home. A year and a half later we brought our second baby girl home. And, for 25 years, we have spent Christmases, Easters, birthdays and every other occasion in this house. Summer backyard barbecues, with a swing set, and swimming in the kiddie pool. In the winters shoveling sidewalks, making snow angels and snowmen out in front of the house. Learning to ride bikes in springtime, first days of school in fall. We’ve had graduations, communions and confirmations to celebrate. Countless presents wrapped and then opened…

And now, it’s all coming to an end. Our home of 25 years will go to another young family. We will be moving out to start Act III of our lives. Our baby girls are all grown up and working. My husband “semi” retired, but juggling two part time jobs until he figures out what he wants to do. Me, discovering that I love to write and maybe I will pursue that passion more after we are all settled in to our new home. After devoting twenty-five years to raising a family, it’s time to come full circle. My husband and I may do some traveling and take some classes, together or apart. We share some interests in common and we should pursue those more now. It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has flown, it all seems like it started yesterday and in the blink of an eye a quarter of a century has gone by.

I don’t know what Act III has in store for us, but Act II is going to be a hard act to follow. We had some hard times in those years, but we’ve also had the happiest times of our lives. And, since I can’t turn back the hands of time and do it all again, it’s really time to move on.

Act III - Curtains rise - the rest is still unwritten

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day, Mom...

My mom when she was single and shy.

It’s on days like this one that I most miss having my mother here. My mother has always been one of a kind. If she were still here, we would be spending the day with her. She would expect, no she would demand, that we be there. To say my mother was hard to please is a gross understatement. I would get her a card and box of candy. When she opened the card, the first thing she would do is flip it over and see how much it cost. She would compare how much I spent on mine to how much my brother spent on his. She would make sure I knew he paid more money for the card he gave her, implying that he loves her more. His card would also have ten to twenty scratch off lottery tickets in it, which she loved. Then she would chew us out for wasting so much money on cards and tell us that holidays didn’t mean anything to her. After this traditional ritual, she would read both cards aloud, to see which one had the most loving and tender words. My brother always wrote, “To the best mother in the whole world,” at the top of his card, and scored even more points with Mom. I always felt like Tommy Smothers when he would tell his brother, Dick, “Mom loves you best.”

She would move on to the box of chocolate and unwrap it. She knew full well that it was Russell Stovers because that is the only kind she would eat. After dinner, she would take off the cellophane and check out the lay out of the candies. She had her favorites and no one else was going to get those. The chocolate clusters of walnuts, pecans and cashews quickly disappeared. One went directly into her mouth and the others sat patiently by her chair, waiting for their turn to be savored and devoured. No complaints ever about the candy. My brother, on the other hand, always had to get some thoughtful gift that he knew my mother would love. It wasn’t anything big necessarily, but it had to be something practical that she wouldn’t complain about, like new nightgowns, dusters or housedresses.

I remember one year we made the mistake of getting her a bouquet of her favorite flowers, carnations. She took one look at them and told us we were throwing good money away because they were just going to die. We got no credit for remembering her favorite flower. That’s just the way it was and we accepted it. She was just happy having us all there and being the center of attention, no gifts were necessary.

Yesterday, my brother took me and my family out to eat at our favorite Italian restaurant. He felt it would be too crowded today and my younger daughter has to work. We all enjoyed a nice meal together, followed by coffee and dessert at home. Each of my daughter’s gave me a beautiful card. I didn’t turn them over to see how much each one spent or scold them for wasting money. I read the words, which were very touching and exactly what every mother hopes to hear from her children. Then I asked them if they picked these cards because it was how they really felt, or because they knew it was what I would want to hear. There was a little hesitation as they had to think a second. I had to laugh at myself, I am much more like my mother than I care to admit. The apples didn’t fall too far from the tree either. My younger daughter says her card is bigger. My older daughter’s card had a lot more words. I realize, when I am with my daughters, how much I love them and how much my mother loved me.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

St. John’s University President "Retires"…

St. John’s is my alma mater and that of my younger daughter, so it pains me to see that yet another “Catholic” scandal has been perpetrated at the university. I really did love my time at St. John’s and my daughter was very well prepared for her career in medical technology. However, I am very disappointed in the latest news that president, the Rev. Father Donald J. Harrington, is retiring due to a scandal.

The back story is that a dean of the university, Cecilia Chang, was arrested and tried for stealing/embezzling over a million dollars from the university for her own personal use. Chang took the stand in her own defense, but committed suicide, by hanging herself, the following day, November 6th, 2012. However, while she was stealing the money, she was giving Father Harrington lavish gifts such as expensive suits, luxurious hotel rooms on trips, watches, etc. all which he accepted. I don’t know where he thought she was getting the money to purchase those items, but clearly he didn’t care. So now, students and their parents have been petitioning for his resignation. After all, when you are paying over $36,000 a year for an education it is more than a little irksome to learn that a dean and the president of the university are benefiting personally from that money. Money that came from loans, with interest, which will take a lifetime to pay back.

Father Harrington says he has prayed over what to do. The past six months have been very difficult for him. I wonder if he has been keeping track of the time on his Rolex watch? I guess, like all Catholic scandals, he expected that it would go away in time? Well it hasn’t. And now he, and his chief of staff, Robert Wile, will be resigning effective June 30th and his retirement will be effective July 31st, so he will still be getting a check. By the way, Wile received $370,000 in interest FREE loans from St. John’s and is being investigated. The loans were recommended by Father Harrington for a joint real-estate venture. It would be great if struggling students could get interest free loans too. Just saying.

Now what really irks me is that St. John’s prides itself on being a Vincentian University, started by priests of the order of St. Vincent de Paul. St. Vincent de Paul was known for his charitable works in helping the poor. Students are encouraged to do community service to follow his example. The virtues of St. Vincent de Paul include humility, meekness, simplicity and self denial. So how does one reconcile this lifestyle, and the commitment St. John’s has made to following the teachings of St. Vincent de Paul, with the actions of Cecilia Chang? Moreover, how is it that a priest like Father Harrington, who is so devoted and committed to those teachings in his own order, finds it okay to accept such lavish gifts? It’s really shameful and yet I am not surprised. It fit’s with the overall continuing hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. This is just a drop in the bucket compared to what has been probably covered up.

Another black mark of the Catholic Church, who supports Father Harrington, as do our Police Commissioner Kelly and our Cardinal Timothy Dolan. I don’t know how anyone can be okay with what he has done, but there you have it. St. Vincent de Paul must be turning in his grave to have his name associated with this scandal.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Jodi Arias Verdict: GUILTY Murder One

It took five years for the trial of Jodi Arias to take place. Five years from the time she slaughter Travis Alexander, her boyfriend, in his own home. There is no other way to describe the crime. There were approximately 30 stab wounds, mostly to his back. She slit his throat from ear to ear. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, she shot him in the face two times. She tried to clean up the crime scene, but that was impossible. So she deleted some incriminating pictures from her camera and threw it in the washing machine, thinking she had destroyed them…wrong. The pictures were retrieved and used at trial. Then she took a little trip, turning her cell phone off, so she couldn’t be tracked to any particular location. She had a tryst with an old boyfriend to establish an alibi. When she was brought in for questioning, she lied and lied and lied, swearing she had nothing to do with the murder. She came around to admitting her guilt, but claimed it was self defense. However the jury, and any one in their right mind, would not believe the “self-defense” theory. On top of that, Jodi has “amnesia” for the time of the murder and a couple of hours after. It was selective memory loss and the defense provided two “expert” witnesses to back her up. One expert said she suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome and the other said she was a battered woman. Neither expert was believable at $250 an hour, a huge waste of taxpayer money.

I’ve read a lot about the case. This despicable excuse for a human being not only killed Travis, but made an attempt to assassinate his character. She portrayed him as an abuser and that she was afraid of him. Yet she killed him right after a session of “love making” while Travis was in the shower. She just happened to have a loaded gun and knife handy. The gun, which she disposed of, just happened to be the same type that was stolen from her grandparent’s home a few days earlier. She also forged a letter and testified that Travis was attracted to young boys. The jury was not allowed to hear about the forged letter, but she did testify in court that he looked at photos online and in magazines. People who knew Travis painted a very different picture of him. No one had a bad word to say about him. His family and friends have been waiting five years for justice. They have had to endure looking at the gruesome crime scene photos used at trial. They have shed countless tears while Jodi spun her web of lies and sat in her seat, with no expression of emotion, “drawing” artwork to sell, throughout the trial. By the way, they have recently reported that her “artwork” is of copyrighted material, print ads from magazines, so it’s a rip off.

Jodi’s “story” of what took place that day on 2008 was shot full of holes by the prosecution and the medical examiner. The trial has been going on since January. Jodi took the stand and was questioned for several days. Apparently, she didn’t convince anyone of her innocence or that the crime was an act “self-defense.” She killed Travis in the shower. Why would Travis attack her from the shower? Who in the world is going to attack someone from the shower. How many stab wounds are necessary for self defense? If you don’t know you are going to be attacked, how do you happened to have two weapons on hand? Why don’t you call the police instead of messing with the crime scene and evidence, and then running off for a rendezvous with an ex-boyfriend? So many unanswered questions. The jury deliberated for roughly 15 hours and came to the conclusion she was guilty of murder one, premeditated murder. Five of the jurors voted it was premeditated, seven voted it was both premeditated and a felony murder. Jodi could get the death penalty depending on the outcome of the next two phases of the trial.

Today the second phase begins. It’s the “aggravation” phase in which the prosecutor has to show that the crime was unusually cruel. I don’t see how the prosecution will have a problem with proving that. From the crime scene investigators can tell that Travis, already bleeding from stab wounds, had gotten up and was standing in front of the bathroom mirror and watched while Jodi continued stabbing him in the back. He tried to get away from her, looking to get to the exit, but collapsed on his way to the door. It was then that they say Jodi cut his throat from ear to ear and dragged his body back to the bathroom. And, as if that all wasn’t enough, she then shot him in the face two times. How long did Travis suffer during the attack? How terrified was he? It will all come out today at trial. Of course, her defense attorney’s have the impossible task of trying to say it wasn’t unusually cruel…good luck to them…even Perry Mason and Matlock together couldn’t pull that off.

The third phase is the “mitigation” phase. That is the phase when family and friends will be allowed to speak. The defense attorney’s will have to make some kind of argument that Jodi doesn’t deserve the death penalty and state some reasons. I have no idea what kind of reasons they will come up with. One lawyer suggested they say this was her first criminal act. Another thought Jodi should make a statement about being very remorseful. No one believes that Jodi is capable of making that kind of statement, and it may not make a difference if she did. She lied so much, no one is going to believe anything she says. Travis’ family will be allowed to express their feelings and tell the judge and jury what punishment they feel Jodi deserves. Oddly enough, after the verdict was read, Jodi was already talking to the media, as calm as can be, saying she would prefer the death penalty to life in prison because longevity runs in her family. I wonder if that is a “ploy” or a manipulative tactic on her part, to get life in prison. Maybe she feels she is so hated by everyone that they will do the opposite of what she requests? In my opinion, no one wants to die. Survival is a strong human instinct. I don’t put it past her to try and “play” the system, the jurors and Travis’ family.  I say make her happy and give her the death penalty, it’s cheaper than 60 years in prison.

Thank God the jury saw through all her lies. After the OJ and Casey Anthony verdicts, I have to say I was a little nervous she would get away with murder one. It’s good to know that Travis will get justice and hopefully, his family will have some closure knowing Jodi will be punished.